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Learning from an Older Generation

The first in a series considering lessons that can be learnt from an older generation

by Philippa Rae

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To encourage mutual understanding and respect across the generations.

Preparation and materials


  1. Ask the children if they have recently learnt to do something new, and where and how they learnt the new skill.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. Point out that most children in this country go to school, although some children are home-schooled. The purpose of schooling is to give children an education so that they can learn the skills that are necessary for their future life.

  3. Ask the children if they know what they would like to be when they grow up and why.     

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Ask them what skills they think they need so that they can achieve that dream.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  4. Point out that school is not the only place where we learn. We can learn at other places that we visit, from books, from TV and from our friends and family. When we leave school, we might carry on studying by going to college. In the past, when people left school, many of them entered a job in which they stayed until they retired. Now there are opportunities for people to retrain or take up a new activity or hobby at any age. We are going to look at two inspiring people who show us that we can keep learning and trying new things, no matter what age we are or what has happened in our lives.

  5. Show the images of Dick King-Smith and his books.

    Ask the children if they have read any of Dick King-Smith’s books. They might have seen the film, Babe, which was adapted from one of his best-loved stories, The Sheep-Pig.

    Explain that Dick King-Smith worked as a farmer for many years before becoming a teacher and famous author in later life. He was born in 1922 and had a happy childhood. He always liked animals and kept lots of pets as he grew up. In 1940, he went to agricultural college to learn to be a farmer. However, the Second World War intervened and Dick served in the Grenadier Guards as an officer. In 1944, he was injured and, after convalescing, returned to farming.

    It was hard work being a farmer. Most days started with milking the cows at 5:45 a.m. Dick wasn’t really a businessman and unfortunately his farming venture didn’t turn out too well. Dick found himself without a job or a home. After a stint as a travelling salesman, he decided to train to be a teacher and graduated when he was 53 years old. Dick had always enjoyed writing poetry and, at the age of 56, he had his first book published. Gradually, he wrote more and more books until he was able to give up teaching and write full-time. By the time he died in 2011, he had written over 100 books, had The Sheep-Pig turned into a highly successful film called Babe and had a mini-career as a television presenter as well as winning many awards.

  6. Explain that you are going to look at another amazing person who managed to get into the Guinness World Records for being the world’s oldest rally car navigator!

    Show the images of the rally cars and Dorothy Caldwell.

    At the time of writing (2017), Dorothy Caldwell is 98 years old and lives in a retirement home. Dorothy was in her nineties when she took up navigating on the world rally circuit for her son, Alastair, a former team boss at McLaren Formula 1.

    Rallying is a form of motorsport that takes place on roads, rather than on a special circuit. The cars are specially built, and teams take part across the world. Rallying involves driving through poor weather and over tough terrain.

    A navigator’s job is a very responsible role. It requires being continually alert in difficult travelling conditions and involves planning, understanding of instructions and quick decision-making. In 2012, Dorothy navigated the team from the east coast of the USA, across the whole country and up to the Arctic Circle in a 1963 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III. She has also navigated with Alastair across Myanmar and took part in a month-long rally there.

  7. Show the YouTube video, ‘USA: World’s oldest rally navigator guides son across N. America’. It is 1.24 minutes long.

  8. At the end of 2016, Dorothy also navigated for Alastair in the New Zealand Haka Classic Rally.  Following the rally, Dorothy said, ‘I saw a lot of New Zealand I have never seen before. But I’m now nearly 100, so perhaps it is time to take things just a little bit easier.’

  9. Individuals like Dick and Dorothy teach us that we can all enjoy trying new things as we get older. With energy and determination, it is possible to achieve exceptional things, no matter what age you are. And remember that learning is a two-way street – perhaps there are a few things that an adult you know would like you to teach them? Maybe they’d like to learn to rap or use the computer better? After all, they can still learn, too!

Time for reflection

Can you think of a time when something went wrong or you felt disappointed that you did not achieve something you had hoped? A dancing exam? A sports competition?

It can seem overwhelming when things mean a lot to us or we feel that we have let down people whom we care about.

But just think about all the things you already know. And all the things that you have done and can do. When we think about these things, it gives us perspective and helps to give us the confidence to try again.

Dear God,
Thank you for all the people who inspire us to try new things.
Thank you for those who encourage us when we feel like giving up.
Help us to celebrate the things we have already achieved, and use them to help us deal with life’s inevitable disappointments and setbacks.
Help us always to be willing to try new things.

Publication date: June 2017   (Vol.19 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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